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Author: Jeroen Korving

Golfing Bliss in Northern Germany: visiting Sylt and Hamburg

11 November 2023
11 min. read
Jeroen Korving
When planning a golf trip in November, many golfers will be looking at countries with good weather conditions, like Spain, Portugal, Italy and the UAE. We decided to do things differently, we were going to visit Germany. A few German golf courses have been on our to-do list for quite some time - Golf Club Falkenstein and Golf Club Budersand Sylt - so we agreed to combine them in one trip. From the Netherlands it's quite a drive but it was well worth and. In this article we'll tell you all about our trip and we'll give you tips on how to avoid certain mistakes we made! This trip was made by our founder Jeroen Korving and Leading Courses Evanglist Leonard van Nunen. Combined they have played a 1,000 golf courses!
Views of Golf Club Budersand Sylt on the left and the Hamburger Golfclub e.V. Falkenstein on the right

Sylt: St Tropez of the North

From Utrecht it's a 7 to 8 hour drive to the island of Sylt, including the train ride. The train ride actually does add almost 1.5 hours to your trip. Sylt is fairly unknown outside of Germany, but for Germans Sylt is a very popular and trendy holiday destination. Many wealthy and famous German families - like Schwarzkopf, Bayer, Axel Springer and Miele - have a house on Sylt. The difference between St Tropez is that the island does not feel very posh, unless you go to Kampen. The wealth is well hidden and discrete on the rest of the island. 

Early morning departure from Westerland on Sylt to Niebüll on the mainland (photo credits: Jeroen Korving)

When we visited Sylt we weren't aware of the fact that you had to take the car train to the island. Google Maps gives the impression that you can drive to the island, but this is not true. You need to hop on the train in Niebüll. There are two companies with a license and they depart at different time intervals (Deutsche Bahn Regional and AUTOZUG Sylt). If you take a return ticket you need to stick to that company, so make sure to check their time schedule. It takes 44 minutes from Niebüll to Westerland on Sylt, so if you have to make a tee time on the island, make sure to take this into account. The train line is a real money machine, so there are no plans to build a bridge. Expect to pay 125 euros for a return ticket. If we would have known this in advance, we would have spent a bit more time on the island. If you arrive from Denmark, you can also take the ferry from Havneby. The price is fairly similar to the car train. 

There is also an airport on Sylt and according to one of the locals it has the longest airstrip in Europe. So, it's also possible to fly to Sylt from the major airports in Germany. The public transport on the island is perfect, so perhaps it's better to hire a bike than a car. 

After accepting the fact that we needed to take the train, the car train was quite an unexpected adventure and it did add just that little bit extra. 

Budersand Hotel - Golf & Spa - Sylt

Sylt is the largest German Wadden island and from North to South it measures 40km. The width of the island varies from 12.5 km to only 200 meters. The shape of the island looks like a hand with a finger pointing downwards and that shape is also used as tee markers at Golf Club Budersand. The five star Budersand Hotel - where we stayed - is located in Hörnum at the most southern tip of the island. The hotel has 77 rooms and suits and we can definitely recommend it. It's not cheap, but it does deliver the promise. The rooms are spacious and luxurious, the views are great (you either have views of the sea or the golf course), the spa is amazing and the breakfast is second to none. Guests of the Budersand Hotel receive a 20% discount on the green fee of the adjacent golf course. 

Impression of the Budersand Hotel on Sylt (Photo credits: Budersand Hotel)​​​​​​​​

Playing Golf Club Budersand Sylt

View at 9:00 in the morning from the clubhouse towards the tee of the first hole, the green of the 9th hole and the amazing Budersand Hotel in the back. (Photo credits: Jeroen Korving)

We were very anxious to play GC Budersand Sylt. The reviews on Leading Courses were fairly mixed. Some were very high, others were low. So we decided to visit the golf course and find our for ourselves. The piece of land was first found by Rolf-Stephan Hansen who convinced Claudia Ebert - heiress and great-granddaughter of the founder of Wella - to build a golf course on this stretch of land. To transform the former army base into a links course took a few years more than expected; 40 buildings needed to be demolished, sewage treatment plants and oil tanks were disposed of, and 10,000 square meters of landscape had to be reshaped. But the end result was all worth it. The hotel was built a few years later on the location of an old water purification plant.

We played Golf Club Budersand Sylt on a cold and windy day in November. Perfect weather to play this links course. Because of the heavy wind due to storm Cairan, we decided to play from the blue tees. The starter house was closed, so we went up to the clubhouse which also houses restaurant Strönholt. The staff was very friendly and we could start at 9.00 instead of 10.00 o'clock to avoid the expected bad weather. The first hole is a fairly easy but great opening hole and it was the start of a lovely round of golf. The maintenance was good, the layout was nice and it really felt as a links course in Scotland or Ireland. Obviously the course was getting ready for winter, so the grass on the greens was a bit higher than normal but they were consistent and fair. We enjoyed every bit of it and even managed to play our handicap here. Hole 13 to hole 16 is probably our favourite stretch of the course. Hole 15 is the signature hole - a par 3 - and the only hole were you can see the sea. The majestic dunes block the views of the sea, but only on this part it is possible to see the sea as amphibious vehicles in the past could enter here.

The signature hole, the par 3 15th, is the only hole where your view is not blocked by the high dunes and where you can see the sea. (Photo credits: Jeroen Korving)

If you want to read my review and the one from Leonard, then just visit the review page of Golf Club Budersand Sylt. We've both played hundreds of courses, but this one definitely is in the top of the golf courses we've played. So go here if you can!

Other golf courses to play when on Sylt

Unfortunately our time was limited, so we couldn't play all courses on Sylt. In fact, there are four golf courses on Sylt. 

Golf Club Budersand Sylt is the best course on the island and the course we played. This one should definitely be on your list. A typical links course.

Marine-Golf-Club Sylt is located fairly close to the airport and is also a links course. The course has quite a few pot bunkers and the best practise facilities on the island. 

We did pay Golf-Club Sylt a visit during our stay. It has a nice clubhouse and a driving range. They are currently (end of 2023) revamping quite a few holes. So, right now you can't play all 18 holes. 

Golfclub Morsum auf Sylt is quite a private club and pretty expensive. We were told the price is pretty steep and that the course is not really worth visiting (at that price). 

Föhr island

The next time we visit the area, we will definitely also visit the Island of Föhr. This island is home to a 27 hole course, consisting of three loops. According to many golfers, Christian Althaus has managed to create an amazing course which should definitely be on your bucket list. 

Some locals indicated that during the summer period it is possible to take a boat from Sylt to Föhr. The boat departs from Hörnum in the south. If you take the first boat, you are able to play 18 holes - and perhaps even all 27 - and then return with the latest boat back to Sylt. If you are not able to take this boat, it might be quite an undertaking to visit Föhr when you are on Sylt. Although the island is just south of Sylt, you will then need to take the car train, drive to Dagebüll on the mainland and then take a boat to Föhr. 

Driving back to Hamburg

Hamburger Golf Club Falkenstein est. 1906

Falkenstein - the abbreviated name of this club - is justifiably renowned for its beautiful course and is often ranked as one of the top golf courses in Germany. While the drive from Utrecht in the Netherlands to Falkenstein is relatively long, it's great that we had the opportunity to check it off our bucket list on our way back from Sylt. Combining it with other golf courses like WinstonGolf or a trip to Sylt - like we did - can make the journey more enjoyable and give you the chance to explore different courses in the region.

The best time to play Falkenstein is around August and September when the heather is in bloom and when the course is in it's best condition. Although the course is pretty hilly, it can easily be walked if you are in good condition. 

The clubhouse in 'Bauhaus' style is impressive and pretty unusual. The clubhouse is white and quite long and overlooks the impressive two putting areas. The driving range is also quite impressive, something which is not always present on 'older' courses. 

Harry Colt design

The course opens up after the 6th hole. Here the 7th Hole par 3 in a Sunningdale like environment. We can't wait to come back in August when the heather is in bloom.  (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

The club was originally located in Flottbek (15 minutes east of the current location), but in 1928 Colt, Alison and Morrison came to Germany to create the 'new' course in its current location about 15 km's west of the city center of Hamburg. This was in the heydays of Colt's career, Utrechtse Golf Club de Pan in The Netherlands, Pedrenā in Spain and The Hilversumsche in the Netherlands were built around the same time.

Colt designed Falkenstein together with John Morrison. Falkenstein is a very famous course and often host to important tournaments; for example in 1981 Bernhard Langer won the German Open at Falkenstein. The golf club was also one of the founders of the German Golf Federation!

12th hole short dogleg left and another great example how an uncomplicated design can give a lot of joy to any level player, really amazing how Colt and Morrison were able to produce these amazing holes almost a 100 years ago. (Photo: Leonard van Nunen)

Another cool thing of an old and distinguished club is that they often have ties with similar clubs abroad. Falkenstein is part of the Fellowship Cup, a tournament on Colt, Alison & Mackenzie courses on 5 different continents. All clubs that participate are amazing, most notable are Sunningdale, Cypress Point, De Pan, Jockey Club (Buenos Aires), Hirono, Royal Liverpool, Royal Portrush. The teams consist of 4 players and the total handicap can not exceed 40 and it is held on a different golf club every year. 

If you want to read my review and the one from Leonard, then just visit the review page of Hamburger Golfclub e.V. Falkenstein. But to spoil the surprise: this is definitely a course you should put on your bucket list and definitely worth a trip of 5-6 hours. 

Other interesting golf courses near Hamburg

If you would like to visit more golf courses in and around Hamburg, then just check our site for all golf clubs near Hamburg. Two clubs we would recommend in the area would be the following:

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